Some parents might worry about taking their children to Mexico, because of safety and the necessary preventative vaccines, although there has been much progress and thankfully the country has recently been Malaria free. Despite this it is worth checking what is essential well before you travel.
The country is vibrant and exotic and there are some jabs recommended by the heath authorities, including tetanus, polio and diphtheria. Some people assume that Malaria tablets need to be taken as a cautionary measure but we were ensured that the risk is very low and we did not need to take any.
In Yucatan we also found there is no need to worry about safety. Police are ever present which does not necessarily mean a place is safe, however from our experience walking around the streets and villages, even at night, no one approached us and we never once felt uncomfortable. If this still does not convince you, there are plenty of big scale hotel complexes that you would not even need to leave, and safety there is one of their highest priorities. We saw plenty of families, even with the smallest of children and babies during our stay there.
In this post my aim is to give parents an idea of what to expect and some of the key facts that most guidebooks do not mention, especially if you travel on your own itinerary as we prefer to do.
I would always advise to bring a certain amount of baby food with you, at least for the first 48 hours, until you have settled and found the closest supermarkets. Local corner shops and convenience stores will almost certainly not have any baby food as they only sell drinks, crisps and in some cases a small selection of fruit and vegetables. Larger supermarkets in the bigger towns will have baby food, but do not expect the same brands or tastes that you are used to back home.
Milk and Breastfeeding:
Mexico has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Latin America. The government has tried to encourage mother there to breastfeed more. Despite this most Mexicans will not bat an eye at someone doing it in public and you are probably more likely to get stares from fellow travellers. As always recommended try not to do it too publicly, cover yourself or find a quiet corner away from prying eyes.
Milk formulas are popular in Mexico and available in supermarkets and some pharmacies. Again, like baby food the same brand of formula might not be available so if your baby is really fussy about what it drinks bring your own. Always use bottled or cooled boiled water for the formula or baby drinks, as the tap water is not always safe for babies! For adults the water is safe enough for basic use but we found it rather chlorinated and not ideal for drinking.
Drinks for Babies and Children:
Mexicans love sugary drinks, you might have read that a sugar tax was introduced in 2014. Unlike in many European countries we found it almost impossible to get healthy drinks in the corner stores apart from still water. We found most of the ice cream stalls, cafes and some shops sold fresh pressed juices though. Many of the ice cream shops had amazing ice lollies made from pure juice that children will love. Another popular drink is agau fresca, a refreshing drink that can be found in restaurants, taco stands and street stalls. Agua frescas are usually made of water and juice and some might contain sugar, I would therefore recommend asking before ordering how they make it if you are concerned. In tourist centres bottled water is mostly used for ice, but elsewhere it is likely to be tap water although we took ice in drinks with no problems anywhere.
Food for Older Children:
We always assumed Mexican food would be rather spicy but we found this not always to be the case. In restaurants we were usually offered the chillies and spicy sauces as extras on the side, especially when ordering tacos and other wraps. Jerome enjoyed eating various tacos with meat fillings, Sopa de Lima (a slightly sour soup with chicken), some kids also might like the black beans that are served with many dishes. Of course all children will love the fresh local fruit, which can be purchased at many market stalls or even from roadside stands all over the country. A lot of restaurants we went to also served western influenced dishes like steak and fries so finding food to suit even conservative tastes should be no issue. We did not see many children’s menus, but most hosts we found would be happy to serve smaller portions or adapt dishes to taste. Sometimes sharing the food between everyone was a great way not to over order and to try the many flavours available.
Convenience and corner stores, which are found all over Mexico, sell mainly snacks like crisps and soft drinks. Unfortunately they are not a great option to pick up some basic food unlike in other countries as their selections are very restricted. Mexicans still buy their fruit and vegetables at streets stalls or the local markets, which can be found in all larger villages/towns and then buy dry goods from the larger super markets.
Supermarkets offer a wide range of groceries, dry goods and every day basics. Sadly though, they sell much less fresh food, unless you visit a superstore.
Nappies and other baby essentials:
I would advise you to take enough of a supply of nappies etc. with you to last at least two or three days. Nappies and other baby essentials, like wipes, can be found at drugstores and larger supermarkets in Mexico so you should have no trouble finding what you need, although brands may differ.
Should you take a pushchair or baby carrier?
Navigating the narrow uneven pavements of Mexico’s cities and villages might prove a bit harder with a pushchair than you are used to. So unless you are planning to be out for most of the day and need the push chair to allow your baby to sleep it can be better to rely on a child carrier backpack or cling. I would never recommend taking a pushchair to the beach or the Mayan sights as they are hard to get around. A baby sling/carrier or back pack carrier is therefore always useful to have and can come in handy at the airport if you have to check in your pushchair, or if you plan to visit any of the Mayan sights, explore the towns and villages or other sights that might have a lot of steps.
I would not bring a car seat in case you are planning to hire a car, you can rent one for a small fee with no problem but do book it in advance.
Public toilets basically are uncommon on the Yucatan Peninsular, locals typically will take a coffee or drink as a way to access a café facilities. Saying that, at tourist sights you will find toilets by the entrance. We found these to be fairly clean most of the time if a bit basic. Restaurants, market halls and major bus stations will also have toilets. On the beaches or at cenotes, depending on where you are you might/or might not find public facilities. If you are planning on going for a boat ride to explore the nature reserves make sure that your child goes beforehand as there most likely will not be able to go during the ride.
Baby changing facilities:
Do not expect any baby rooms at any of the sights or places to visit. It will be useful to bring a travel-changing mat alongside your changing bag and all your changing things.
Entry to sights and travel tickets with children:
In many places and on most transport young children and school students will get free or reduced entry/tickets. Depending on the age children might get free or reduced entry to most sights.
Where to stay:
Yucatan offers a wide range of accommodation. If you travel with children it might be easiest to rent an apartment on Airbnb or similar websites, this is usually a great option in terms of value for money and space. It has the advantage of flexible travel and you can cater to your child’s tastes, plus have the advantage of separate rooms, albeit for the loss of service. You should be able to find plenty of hotel options, especially along the Caribbean coast. There are plenty of large scale resorts, some specifically cater to families, if this is not your cup of tea, go for smaller hotels in the smaller towns or villages, but make sure they will provide beds/cots for children/babies. Older children might also enjoy the option of sleeping in a hammock, which is both comfortable and fun too. A few hotels are adults only so also check this before you book.